In the end, logic did win out. Fans and close followers of the New York Islanders -- those who know the pain of the clubs' recent history all too well -- inferred all along (albeit with media-fed fears) what the media and national observers could not: It was the consensus pick all along.
It's been said of Garth Snow that he wants to avoid and correct the mistakes that came before him. Maybe this was part of that: No getting cute with the #1 pick. Maybe part of the reason he exhibited the best poker face in North America since mid-April is because he knew how rewarding this "surprise" moment would be for fans. It certainly was. It felt like the franchise's moment of the decade; a distinct step in turning things around the right way.
(Shawn Bates' penalty shot was a spine-tingling thrill, but the benefit of hindsight both after that series and in the seasons that followed told us it was a false positive. It had no encore.)
If last summer was absolute zero of the rebuild, and last season was Year One -- one long, painful rip of the band aid -- this year, beginning with Tavares, suddenly looks like the beginning of the recovery. It won't be a playoff year, but it will be a helluva fun year watching more exciting young prospects blossom. Tavares embraces the mission.
It's unclear what Tavares will be, and he's not projected to be anything like the trio of "generational" stars reviving the Capitals-Penguins rivalry. (Importantly, Wang says he's not a savior, he's another piece of the rebuilding process.) But he is the top player in a very deep 2009 draft. That's not small potatoes.
A LOT of Islanders fans exhaled in joy last night. We'll get to them, the video of the moment, and coverage around the league, after the jump.
First, non-Tavares and league news:
- As pledged, the Reinsdorf bid for the Coyotes came in Friday. $148 million. Coyotes reaction at Five for Howling.
- Chris Pronger to Philly, his elbows to the Eastern Conference. Holmgrem is going for it. [Broad Street Hockey]
- No Heatley deal (which, hilariously, TSN was more interested in than the Pronger actual trade) [Ottawa Citizen]
- The Calvin De Haan scouting report. [NHL.com] Most of us questioned the need to move up; Western College Hockey Blog really frowned. We'll have more on all the Islanders picks -- who you got at 31? -- during the weekend into Monday.
- For all the league news, I gotta pimp this: There is just a ton of NHL draft coverage from team bloggers at the SBN draft hub. Bunch of these guys are on the floor in Montreal, getting some interesting tidbits.
The Moment and the Aftermath
It started with some bad omens for Tavares fans. The talking heads who said Victor Hedman were increasingly switching to ... Matt Duchene. There was even word in Colorado, and from Brian Burke: all signs point to Duchene. Game, set, match: Garth Snow.
Adding to the omens, a contingent of Islanders bloggers in Montreal (part of an impressive showing of Islanders fans up there), were without a seat or a steady Internet connection. Doug's live chat (he'll be running one again in the morning) launched on delay, thanks to the Web issues. That's just blogger technical stuff -- but can you imagine traveling to Montreal, being disappointed by the "wrong" pick, and not even being able to write about it thanks to a communications snafu? Meanwhile, the Duchene rumors tested patience, but as hoped, reason won out.
But then the storm cleared, the festivities began, the right deed was done, eruption followed:
This picture's worth 1,000,000 words [Islesblogger] And Snow refusing Burke was cool, too.
- "I feel like I'm going to cry." [New York Times] (The Post will have some slant, I'm sure)
- Everybody wins -- and 2003 182nd overall pick Bruno Gervais at the draft table [7th Woman]
- Nice job picking Tavares. Now you need a dozen more. [IslandersPointBlank] (OK, so not everyone erupted.)
- "The Islanders become a team you want to watch." I think MONSTER Pierre meant it. [Tiger Track live blog]
- The nose for the net the team sorely needs. [Still Drivin']
- Be giddy, but be reasonable. [Newsday/Staple]
- Such a wonderful night to be an Islanders fan. [NYI Five Hole]
- Wang is happy and managing expectations. [Puck Daddy interview with Charles Wang]
- Oh, I guess I should mention the live draft thread at ... well, this here blog [Lighthouse Hockey]
- Funniest part of Doug's tech-delayed live blog? "I don't think I was supposed to cheer in the media risers!" [IslesOfficial'sOutlook]
- Mania! The Islanders official message board reaction. [Islanders Mania]
- Crowded house and Tavares chants by 10,118 at the Coliseum [IslesNation live blog]
Great stuff, everyone. Fun to relive everyone's version of the moment. Got more? Email or drop it in comments.
Round 2 starts bright and early with the Islanders first at 31, and at 56. Once more, with feeling (Tavares interviews and coverage a few minutes in):